Less than a week away, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will visit Storm Lake next Friday to speak at the 2001 William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series. She was the first female Secretary of State.
Albright will participate in a panel discussion with BVU students Friday afternoon and then will speak at the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture that evening.
Six students are on the panel and will ask Albright questions. All of the students applied last spring for the honor of representing the BVU student body during Albright's visit.
Ken Converse, BVU vice president for institutional advancement, said the excitement many students have may come from the fact that Albright is a little more familiar to them than some of the past lecturers.
"She is someone who has been in the news up until very recently, and someone the students can remember better than perhaps even Colin Powell, who was in the news following the Gulf War, for example," Converse said.
Kevin Bresnahan, Waukon, said it will definitely be a new experience for all of the students selected to be on the panel.
Adam Schenck, a sophomore from Harlan, said he is excited about the opportunity to question Albright.
"It's not very often you get the chance to have a conversation with major political leaders and people who make political decisions for countries unless you're very rich," he said. "I don't want to waste my chance."
Bethany Hohenstein, Sioux City, wants to learn Albright's thoughts on women in positions of power.
"I just really admire her for her leadership as a woman, since obviously she's been the highest ranking woman in government in history of the U.S.," she said. "I plan on becoming a dentist, which is a field that is predominantly male," she said. "I wonder what she's encountered... being a woman amidst a lot of males."
As an aspiring television broadcaster, Jill Nissen, Exira, is thrilled to be able to interview a person of such stature.
"I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to practice my skills, which will be beneficial for me in the future," Nissen said. "It's a great opportunity for my future career to interview someone who has held such a high position as Madeleine Albright."
The panelists have met to prepare for the event, which can be nerveracking when meeting such a significant individual and asking her questions in front of 800-plus students.
But the pressure's not getting to them yet, as they prepare a mix of foreign policy questions as well as questions about Albright's view on male and female power relationships.
"I'm really interested to hear what she thinks the role of women have in society, especially in government," Bresnahan said, noting Albright's eight years in the Clinton Administration.
Hohenstein is eager to ask Albright about religion and faith, noting how Albright's family switched to Catholicism before immigrating to the U.S.
"I'm interested to see how she responds to my faith question, and to see how that's affected her life," Hohenstein said. "I'm hoping she can encourage people and their faith."
Schenck plans to ask some questions about U.S. sanctions policies, specifically targeting sanctions against Irag. "I'm really looking forward to maybe opening some minds," he said.
Nissen hopes other students learn just as much from the discussion as the panelists well.
"Hopefully they'll just learn more about our government and what it takes to be in such a position," she said. "The whole purpose of the lecture series is about freedom, and hopefully they'll learn more about Madeleine Albright's position regarding that subject."
All of the student panelists are excited. "There's only so much you can get from hearing her speak on TV. It's just different if you see somebody on TV and somebody sitting five feet away - you get a new respect for somebody if you're in that situation," Bresnahan said.
Hohenstein is excited to meet Albright in person. She decided to try out for the panel discussion after seeing her on television last year. "Honestly I saw her on Oprah, and thought, 'Wow, this lady is cool,'" she said.
Established in 1989, the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series was endowed by Dr. Harold Walter Siebens, an Iowa-born entrepreneur and philanthropist, and named in honor of his son, William.
Usually the lecture is later in the school year, but that has not caused any problems, Converse said.
"There was a little concern about it at first - this is as early in the school year we have ever hosted the lecture," he said.
But with one week to go, preparations are all in order. Albright will arrive by plane that afternoon, and will fly out that evening, Converse said.
BVU is expecting over 800 for the afternoon panel discussion and another 350 are expected to attend the American Heritage Lecture, Converse said.
Albright follows a distinguished list of lecturers, who have included General Colin Powell, former President of the United States George Bush, Lady Margaret Thatcher, former South African President F. W. de Klerk, legendary newsman Walter Cronkite and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Visit www.bvu.edu/ahls for more information about the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series.